As we grow up, our parents gradually teach us how to take care for ourselves to some extent. However, self-care, and knowing when and how to seek help or support is also something that’s integral to our lives. Unfortunately, self-care is not exactly seen as something that is equivalent to physical wellbeing. We’re rarely told to learn how to express our emotions, to even understand our emotions; because mental illness and mental health conditions are not something that can be seen or easily accounted for, and as a result, have largely failed to take care of it as well. In fact, in some cases, it is also considered as an attention-seeking act by many and has been turned into a taboo in addition to the stigma attached.
According to a WHO statistic, 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health condition at some point in their lives. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 20% of adolescents suffer from a mental health condition in any given year. The issue and risk of suffering are so grave that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health recognizes October 10th as World Mental Health Day, since 1992. Yet, as of today, we still struggle with self-awareness and mental health challenges.
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What are the most common reasons for mental health issues today?
We live in a world that is rapidly changing, faster than we can usually adapt. There is an influx of news, knowledge, and information out there. The pressure to perform, the ongoing and never-ending comparisons, and the inexplicable amount of political, social, and environmental events around have fuelled everyday stress and fatigue further. We may also feel vulnerable due to different life events or life stages. This can cause stress, anxiety, and depression which can further aggravate one’s mental health. Let’s look at some of the most common causes that can cause mental health issues.
From unhealthy diets to poor sleep health, there are numerous factors in our daily lives that can cause mental health issues to worsen. From the minute you wake up until you go back to sleep, everything you do can have an impact on your mental health and in some cases, it can build up and result in poor mental and overall health. Having a healthy lifestyle, which includes maintaining a good work-life balance, maintaining healthy relationships, and taking care of your physical health can help in being more mentally strong and resilient.
The digital world is a big part of our daily lives, especially among the youth. Social media makes others’ lives increasingly accessible. Yet, we don’t see the entirety of other people’s lives, but only the parts they want to show. We see more successes, and we tend to compare our lives to others, unintentionally attaching our self-worth to these strangers. The more we compare, the more dissatisfied we become and the lower our self esteem drops. The continuous churning of these emotions, and the feeling of not being successful enough, not being ‘pretty’ enough, or even not being productive enough, can cause tremendous pressure on our mental and emotional wellbeing. Try to improve your social media habits by lowering your overall consumption and picking positive and motivating content you do consume.
Our past relationships with our significant others, friends, families, teachers and any other relationship we form in life can have a crucial impact on our mental health, which can be both positive and negative. The negative impacts can include trauma, abuse, and neglect and can result in an increased risk of developing a mental health condition. It is important to learn how to set boundaries and maintain healthy relationships with the people in our lives, whether it is with our colleagues or our romantic partners.
In addition to our environment, our biological histories and genetic factors can also make us vulnerable to certain mental health issues. In these cases, it is important to seek therapy for mental health treatment as soon as possible.
Uncertainty and life challenges
Losing someone, major accidents, and experiencing a natural calamity are some examples of unexpected and sudden events that are not in our control and can happen to anyone. We may end up experiencing emotions we have never experienced before such as grief and betrayal. The abruptness of this can also trigger breakdowns and lead us down a path of self-destruction and poor mental health.
Do I need therapy? 8 signs you may want to start therapy
If you’re looking for some signs that would help you figure out whether you should seek professional help, below are some behavioral or emotional changes you could look out for.
When you feel worried or scared about your internal shifts, try paying more attention to your emotions and reactions. Our body reacts to fear with a fight or flight response. How do you imagine your mind reacting when a threatening situation is coming from inside, rather than outside?
For example, Mr. B is feeling low, yet is able to function at work. He sensed something is amiss yet couldn’t point a finger at it. When someone asked him what was his difficulty, he answered, “I don’t know. Everything seems the same, but I am feeling unusually low, and not very much in control of my emotions”. This is Mr. B’s internal alarm. If you are experiencing something similar, don’t try to ignore it. Therapy can help. If you feel you are not ready for therapy or to talk to anyone just yet, consider talking to Wysa – an anonymous platform that can help talk through your emotions.
Unmotivated at work
Another indicator would be observing how you are functioning at work. Work is a social situation, and also a necessity in life. Therefore, constantly feeling like you don’t want to go to work, or not being able to perform tasks you could easily before, should be a point where you can ask yourself the question, is something wrong? Am I feeling alright? Even if the concerns might seem trivial like bad bosses, and work pressure, you can seek help and consider using self-help tools and techniques as well.
If your employer does not offer any EAP or mental health services, consider trying the Wysa app. It has many meditations, exercises, relaxation sounds, cbt techniques available for free that can help you regain your energy and get your confidence back.
Constant irritability and mood fluctuations
Irritability can arise out of excessive worrying and stress. Sometimes when we are overworked and don’t make any time to relax and unwind, we may feel irritable and it can also lead to burnout. Prolonged or chronic stress can further have a detrimental impact on both our physical and mental health.
If this is something you have been experiencing for more than two weeks, it might be an indicator to speak to a mental health professional.
Isolation and withdrawal from social life
Sometimes we may keep our tasks at work in check, but other areas of our life might feel different. If you start constantly avoiding social situations that you normally enjoy, it might be another indicator that something is wrong or that you need to pay more attention to your feelings and emotions. Is it a particular day that has been rough, or have you been pulling away from social commitments, or socializing with friends and family for a while?
Note that everyone has their own preference for how much time they need for themselves and how much social contact they want. Based on this, consider talking to someone about why you might be feeling this way.
Changes in sleep and diet
Human beings usually have a pattern of eating in terms of time and appetite. There is a similar pattern to our sleep cycle as well. It’s important to pay attention to any changes in these areas, that last more than a few weeks. The body functions along with the mind. Therefore, paying attention to your body is necessary even when we talk about our mental health!
Sudden life changes
We can’t always be prepared for what’s coming. In some cases, even when we see something coming beforehand, dealing with it in real time can be really hard. There can be sudden breakups, financial losses, and sudden loss of friends, partners, family, and pets that can hugely impact our mental health. Mourning and grief are some of the toughest predicaments human beings have to deal with. It is not easy to get through such events alone and it is completely okay to ask for help and seek therapy during these life challenges.
Addiction or substance use
Increasing dependency on substances like alcohol and drugs can have a detrimental impact on one’s mental health. People are not only susceptible to substance addictions but also other addictions such as social media, dating apps, and pornography, among other technology. These addictions are tough to battle on your own and you may get to a point where you need to seek professional help. If you are unsure how and where to ask for help – consider talking to a friend who can help you find a mental health professional.
Abuse or trauma
Some of us go through circumstances, accidents, and/or relationships that are traumatic and have a deep and long-lasting impact on us, especially if it is something that happened in our childhood. Unpacking this trauma is not easy and can drain a lot of mental energy. You may feel that after going through an experience that the feeling never left. If you feel like it is affecting your life in a major way and you are unable to move forward, it might be a good idea to go to a therapist or a trained professional, who can help you with your healing process.
Reasons you should consider going for therapy even when you feel normal
Do I need therapy even if I feel normal? The answer is YES.
Therapy is not only for when life gets rough and painful. Therapy is something that can help you in daily life. You might have taken help from therapy before during a rough phase, and now that you feel better, you may want to stop. If that is the case and you want a break from therapy, that’s completely fine. However, consider continuing your therapy sessions even if you feel like you have moved past your rough phase. You never know when you might need to talk to someone again or when you might face a challenge.
Another advantage of therapy is that it can help in being more self-aware. You may get the sense that you don’t know yourself very well. You may feel confused about what you like, what you dislike, what stresses you and what kind of boundaries you need to set for the relationships in your life. Not knowing is also a good reason to go, even if you are not feeling visibly disturbed, therapy can help you unearth and understand yourself better.
Also, there are times when we don’t know exactly what we are seeking therapy for because we feel normal on the surface, but deep down we feel there is something wrong. With the help of your therapist, you may be able to unpack your emotions and understand better what areas in your life you need help with. It could be some feelings or trauma that you may have buried deep down that may come to the surface. It is better to deal with this when you are feeling normal than when you are at a breaking point.
Lastly, therapy can help in building your resilience skills. Being more resilient can help you be more mentally strong and take on life challenges in a healthy way. And this does not mean putting on a brave face but rather using healthy coping mechanisms like mindfulness.
It is also important to note that therapy isn’t offered just offline. There are tons of options and alternatives for online therapy out there today. Everyone has different needs and different forms of therapy works for different people. Whether it is anonymity you are looking for or text-based support, do some research to see what might suit you best.
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Not ready for therapy just yet? Don’t ignore the power of self-help
It is always good to have a set of self-help activities you can do. You may be on the waitlist for an appointment with a therapist, you may not feel ready as yet or you may just want to see if you can work on it on your own. Here are some self-help tips that can help get you started.
Engage in activities that involve both mind and body
It can be reading or working out at the gym or anything else that you enjoy involving the mind and body. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself and set achievable goals like reading one chapter before bedtime or taking a 10-minute walk every day.
Moving your body to a rhythm can be really cathartic and energizing. This does not mean just going to the gym – it can be whatever you enjoy the most. Dancing, walking, kickboxing classes, and yoga are a few examples. Exercising releases feel-good hormones such as dopamine, which is not only good for the body but also your mental health.
Try cooking a meal for yourself
This is one way of self-care, through which you can nurture yourself, in the most basic way. You can whip up something that you’re really fond of and treat yourself. It doesn’t have to be perfect or complicated. If this is not enough motivation – consider cooking for your loved ones or even with them too!
Leaving the house
There are days when leaving the house, or even getting out of bed, can feel really strenuous. On such days, try to force yourself out of the house to take just a 10-minute walk, or just get out of the house for a breath of fresh air. You may find that even though it was difficult to get out, actually doing it may end up making you feel a little better.
Immerse yourself in music
There is a lot of value for mental health in music. Groove and rhythm are basic to biology and human life. Even our heart has its own beat. Therefore, playing an instrument or listening to music can be really helpful and can help soothe the mind.
Talk to someone
It can be really difficult to open up and be vulnerable but on the flip side you may feel relief once you do. Having said that, this is easier said than done. If you are still unsure or have no one you can trust just yet – consider talking to Wysa – the app offers completely anonymous, free, and chat-based support.
Research has shown that helping others can improve our own well-being. Try to spend some time out of your week volunteering for a cause that you feel close to.
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